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Friday, September 26, 2014

MaryBeth Matzek: Ruling puts high-capacity wells under greater scrutiny

By MaryBeth Matzek
Farmers, businesses and municipalities looking to drill high-capacity wells will face additional scrutiny following a recent judicial decision.

Earlier this month, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey D. Boldt ruled the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources needs to consider the "cumulative impact" of any proposed high-capacity wells before granting approval. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed after the DNR approved Richfield Dairy's application for two wells to provide the dairy with about 72.5 million gallons of water annually. A group of Adams County residents concerned about falling lake levels filed the suit against the DNR saying the state agency didn't take into account the area's other wells and their cumulative effect on the region's groundwater and surface water when issuing the approval.

"This ruling isn't just about agriculture. It's about the availability of groundwater and that it's not some unlimited resource," says attorney Carl Sinderbrand, who represented the residents of nearby Pleasant Lake in the lawsuit. "It's now up to the DNR to carefully balance the different needs of agriculture, municipalities and tourism."

There's a lot of competition for water and now all users will have to go through a more thorough review process before their high-capacity wells are approved, Sinderbrand says. In Wisconsin, according to the DNR, 250 billion gallons of groundwater were pumped in 2013. Of that total, large dairies use only 0.5 percent. The highest users of groundwater are agricultural irrigation (41 percent) and municipal public water (37 percent).

So while the original case may have been against a large dairy, the decision will have wide- ranging impact on all groundwater users, including farmers who use it for irrigation and cities and town who use it for drinking water, says George Kraft, a water resources professor and director of the Center for Watershed Science and Education with the University of Wisconsin- Extension UW-Stevens Point's College of Natural Resources.

"This ruling has far-reaching impacts. It's not just about large dairies," he said.

Before anyone wants to drill a high-capacity well, the DNR will need to look at the impact of not only that well, but all of the other wells in the area, too, Kraft says. "The DNR has a big job ahead of it. What will they do about large current users? What about new users that want to come in?" he says.

From 2007 to 2013, dairy farms accounted for just 9 percent of requests in Wisconsin for high- capacity wells, according to DNR data.

"Other industries and municipal governments, which make up the majority of new well builders, will be affected by this decision far more than dairy farms," she says.

Tamas Houlihan, communications director for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, said the ruling is causing a lot of concern among farmers, but they won't be the only ones affected.

"For any farmer, golf course owner, municipality or industry in Wisconsin who needs a new high-capacity well, this decision leaves them with no identifiable framework for the well review and approval process," he said. "Most alarming to Wisconsin farmers is that this decision fundamentally changes the high-capacity well approval process in Wisconsin without any public input. Accordingly, our farmers look to the Wisconsin Legislature to ask for that public input and to develop a defined, understandable, workable high-capacity well permitting process for Wisconsin."

David Crass, an attorney with Michael Best who represented the dairy in the case, says everyone is waiting to see what the DNR – who hasn't commented publicly on the case yet -- will do next.

"While the ruling applied only to this case, we all know that the DNR will apply it to all permits for high-capacity wells going forward, whether it's a golf course, a cheese plant, another dairy, a municipality," he says. "But any business or municipality with a high-capacity well is going to be looking at this case carefully and following it."

Unique collaboration

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is teaming up with Appleton- based ThedaCare for an onsite training center at ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano, which is currently under construction. The collaboration is the first-of-its-kind in Wisconsin and the new hospital will include a 5,000-square foot learning center is being constructed within the larger medical center to house both classroom and laboratory teaching equipment.

The move will alleviate a space crunch at NWTC's facility in Shawano by moving its nursing programs over to the new hospital while also providing students with plenty of real world experience.

Hospital CEO Dorothy Erdmann says she hopes the students being trained at the new hospital may one day work there, allowing the community to "grow its own" healthcare employees.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Comments: 1

At March 30, 2017 at 5:16 AM, Blogger kelinci said...

Great post & useful. Thanks
Jual Kelinci
Jual Kelinci
Kelinci Jual


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